Keeping Up With the Joans* (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 11, 2014 in Theatre

keeping up with the joansOn a rest day for many of the shows in Edinburgh, this is one of the few that ploughed on, maybe hoping that the absence of competition would boost ticket sales. Coming from Greenwich Theatre, Philip Meeks’ new play stands out for all the wrong reasons in a Fringe Festival that is packed with innovative work. It looks like something that has been exhumed from the graveyard of theatre, an antiquity that might possibly go down well at a midweek matinee in Eastbourne, but can only arouse derision here. It is set in a care home where two elderly ladies, both fighting the onset of dementia, are reunited many years after having been rivals for the lead role in Shaw’s St Joan with an amateur dramatics group and also rivals for the friendship of a fellow member of the group, a gay man. Each of them claims to have played Joan on the night that Dame Sybil Thorndike (for whom the role was written) was in the audience, but, with memories fading, which of them was it? It would be too unkind a barb to suggest that playing amateur actresses seems to come naturally to Susan Penhaligon and Katy Manning, because both do all they can with what is, at best, very mediocre material. In fact the play is more geriatric and demented than its characters, ambling from one unbelievable sequence to another and, on the few occasions when it promises something interesting, retracting at record speed. Even if the absurdities of the plot could be overlooked, it would still be unforgivable that large sections of the play are sleep inducingly boring. This one is best lost in the memory very quickly.

Performance date: 11 August 2014

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